PSAC is renewing its call for mandatory training that would address systemic racism, harassment, and discrimination in the federal public service after Treasury Board outright rejected the proposal at the Common Issues bargaining table in December.
This training for all employees and managers would be facilitator-led with an intersectional approach, and cover important issues such as anti-oppression and discrimination, harassment and violence in the workplace, and Indigenous history that aligns with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action #57.
The employer gave their decision just days after — and in direct contradiction to — the federal government’s public apology for decades of sexual harassment, abuse, and workplace harassment at the Department of National Defence, and their pledge of $40 billion to Indigenous child welfare.
“Treasury Board is being completely disingenuous, in one breath saying they're committed to doing better and in the next discounting the value of employee and manager training,” said PSAC National President Chris Aylward. “They can’t have it both ways. Either they support the long overdue need for change in the public service, or they don’t. And disappointingly, based on their blanket rejection of all training proposals, it seems they don’t.”
In response to our proposals, Treasury Board claimed they already have many resources for employees. The employer also said that, despite their strong commitment to these issues, they have no interest in enshrining training into collective agreements. However, the courses currently offered by the government are often optional and aren’t taken by all federal public service workers, leaving large gaps in education that can and should be addressed through mandatory training for all staff.
The government’s own 2020 Public Service Employee Survey shows the importance of more training on these critical issues. Some 56 per cent of respondents weren’t satisfied with how their concerns or complaints about racism in the workplace were addressed. Of the respondents who were victims of discrimination, 28 per cent experienced race-based discrimination and 77 per cent experienced it from individuals with authority over them.
Similar results emerged from the 2021 PSAC Membership Bargaining Input Survey, with 35 per cent of respondents who self-identified within an equity group saying they have experienced discrimination in the federal public service, and one-third saying their career progress in the federal public service has been adversely affected by discrimination. This comes as no surprise considering the recent launch of class action lawsuits by both Black and Indigenous public service workers.
The results are clear. The government still has a big problem when it comes to discrimination and harassment in the federal public service, and the optional resources that Treasury Board currently offers employees are not enough to close the gaps.
PSAC will continue to fight to ensure employers actively work to dismantle systemic racism. Mandatory, intersectional anti-oppression and discrimination training for employees and managers is just one tool we can use to do that. But it is an important and necessary one, and we will continue to push for it at the table.
The Common Issues bargaining team meets with the employer again February 1–3, 2022.